Monday, February 22, 2010

What Does Bipartisan Mean?

I sincerely think someone needs to get President Obama a dictionary. He keeps paying lip service to a bipartisan healthcare bill, but either he doesn't know what the word means, or he's full of...well, you can guess what he's full of. Bipartisan's true meaning is "marked by or involving cooperation, agreement, and compromise between two major political parties." In that spirit, for almost a year Obama and the House and Senate leaders have ignored the Republican solutions and have ignored the will of the people. It has cost them, to date, two govermorships, a House seat, a Senate seat (held for over 30 years by a Democrat in the bluest state no less!), a defection from Dem to Republican in the House, and multiple retirements in both the House and Senate, leaving dozens of seats in jeopardy of going Republican in 2010.

Obama seemed to get the gravity of the situation by inviting the Republicans to a summit on the 25th of this month to discuss health care. We've been hearing for weeks - since Scott Brown's election - that Obama CAN save his presidency IF he moves to the right, really works with the House and Senate Republicans, really listens to what the ALL the people say, not just what his advisors and the people at the SEIU and MoveOn.Org have to say. And it seemed, for a few brief moments, like he was going to do that.

But then either his puppet masters or his ego took over again, and he has gone back to the "I know better than you what's best for you" style of politics. He announced that he is fully hoping for a bi-partisan solution to health care, and to prove it, until the Republicans come around, he will keep pushing forward with the existing legislation. This is where I think he may not understand the meaning of the word bipartisan, It does NOT mean that the Republicans need to agree with the Democrats. It doesn't mean that the existing legislation should be the starting point. It means getting out a fresh sheet of paper and starting over. 

It doesn't stop at healthcare.  To prove he's bipartisan, he's offered up money for nuclear power plants - IF the Republicans pass cap & trade legislation.  In other words, he's trying to bribe them to get what he wants.  He'll give us nuclear power, we just have to compromise our values - and our economy - to get it. 

Back to his bipartisan approach to healthcare, he's going to be announcing his own version of the health care plan today, THREE DAYS in advance of the summit. This plan is expected to be purely budgetary, so they can pass it through reconciliation with only 51 votes in teh Senate, and then make up whatever they want on the back end once they have the money to pay for it.  No one should be fooled, he has no intention of taking the wishes of the Republicans into consideration. He just doesn't get it!

If you doubt that this administration thinks that we're all a bunch of simpletons, his mouthpiece, Nancy Pelosi, said this: "We (Liberal Democrats) will go through the gate. If the gate is closed, we will go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we will pole vault in. If that doesn't work, we will parachute in. But we are going to get health care reform passed for the American people for their own (good)."

Did you get that? It's for our own good that healthcare be put in the hands of the government, which can't get the Cash For Clunkers dealers paid on time, which can't get unemployment checks paid on time, which causes the private sector to shrink by twenty cents for every dollar it spends, and which will create over 100 NEW AGENCIES with this legislation. If you get cancer and need a timely course of treatment, is this who you would turn to?

Please, keep writing and calling your elected officials. Keep up the pressure. Let's show them the way, or show them the door.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Honesty, Failure and the Permanent Campaign

"If I could create one job in the private sector by helping to grow a business, that would be one more than Congress has created in the last six months." –Democratic U.S. Senator Evan Bayh, Feb. 16, 2010


This was a rare treat – a slice of honesty from a career politician. It's funny how the rare dissent from the administration's party line comes at the same time Bayh announced his retirement. It's almost like he thought "Well, I'm leaving anyway; I might as well go out on a high note!" Honesty is too rare in politics. It's all spin, all the time, and with very few exceptions it's all disingenuous. But let's keep the honesty train rolling, shall we?

Studies have shown that people tend to be their own harshest critics. I've seen this borne out time and again over nine years as a manager. We have an annual review at work, and each employee has to do their own assessment. As a manager I would take their assessment of their work, couple it with my own observations and assign a rating. I would often use their own phrases when I would discuss the rating with them to describe why I gave them the rating I did. In nine years, having done probably 150 of these reviews, I never had anyone go over my head to complain. Sure, at times people were disappointed, but they knew it was right. More often, people were pleasantly surprised that I had rated them better than they thought they deserved. The times where I saw people ranting about how they'd been 'screwed over' by their manager's rating of their work, they were typically people who worked really hard at doing the minimum it took to keep their job while their peers were busting their butts to get ahead. These people would fit in well in the Obama administration.

Take the stimulus bill, for example. One year ago today Obama came to Denver to sign the stimulus act into law, violating, in less than one month from taking office, his promise to fight earmarks. He and his fellow cronies on the left have repeatedly touted the success of the stimulus despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary. Being objective, the stated purpose for the stimulus was to keep unemployment in check. The President's experts said that passing the stimulus act would keep unemployment below 8% - and without it we would see the numbers crest at almost 9%. Christina Romer even put together a nifty little graph that showed how the stimulus spending would kick in and the economy would be saved. In the world of project management this is called a 'success criteria.' It's the reason the stimulus was commissioned in the first place, and the measure against which its effectiveness is determined. By any objective accounting, it has failed, and failed miserably.

There are a couple of other graphs I would share with you. The first one highlights a close up view of the projections from the Romer with a bright red line reflecting the actual unemployment rate towering over both the Romer projections for unemployment with and without the stimulus. In other words, the stimulus failed. Had we not even put the stimulus in place, we were supposed to hit 8.9% unemployment; instead we hit 10% WITH the stimulus. We were lectured to by Obama in early February 2009 that rampant recklessness had gotten us into this mess, and only the government was big enough to get us out. Spend money on make-work jobs, and people will survive the collapse, he said. If I spend it, they will come. He got his money, but the jobs never came. One argument was that we weren't spending fast enough; but we were assured that the stimulus was working as it was supposed to; that the money from the stimulus (that had to be passed immediately, remember, or society would crumble!) was meant to be spent over the course of several years. That it was working as intended could not have been farther from the truth. If the stimulus was working as it was supposed to, unemployment would have crested at just under 8% in March, not over 10% by mid-year.

Next we began hearing about jobs "saved or created" with stimulus funds. Even yesterday, 'say it ain't so' Joe Biden said that over two million jobs were 'saved or created' with stimulus funds. Though he says this with great conviction, the truth is no one can prove it (and when they try, the reports are fraught with errors, attributing saved jobs to non-existent congressional districts. Oops!). What Joe WON'T say is so is that the two million number is calculated using formulas and economic models that may or may not bear any resemblance to reality. What we do know is that three million jobs have been lost since the stimulus was enacted. In a familiar refrain, the counter argument is that the previous administration left things in much worse shape than anyone really knew. That doesn't exactly provide a ringing endorsement for the people who designed this thing, does it? If they're the experts, and they misjudged things that badly, it's no wonder we're still mired in recession.

As for the 'we're not spending fast enough argument, here's another chart that shows a different view – as spending has increased, so has unemployment. Of course, this can't be true – can it?

It can, and here's how. Much of the stimulus money has been spent keeping state workers employed. This is significant because a study by Harvard economist Robert Barro indicates there's a negative relationship to government spending – that when the government spends $1, the private sector shrinks by $.20. A University of San Diego study puts that figure at .56 – so, for every $1 spent by government, the private sector shrinks by $.44. In other words, while the state workers have kept their jobs via stimulus spending, the private sector keeps shedding jobs.

With people angry, Democrats retiring rather than face expulsion at the hands of angry voters, and plummeting approval numbers, President Obama is going back to his stand by motto: when times get tough, the tough start campaigning. Biden, Pelosi, and Reid have been dispatched to go and tout stimulus success stories. Let me see if I get this right – we gave Obama $787 BILLION dollars to go and improve the economy and the stimulus has, by its own measure, failed to work. Rather than admit it's not working, pull back the unused funds and try something else, we're going to keep spending our way to oblivion, and his solution is to waste even more money by sending our top politicians (and their security details) around the country to spout dubious numbers and – let's be honest – blow smoke up our collective arse. Even Janet "The system worked" Napolitano has been sent out on the road to crow about how successful the stimulus has been (really, she's a good choice given that she's proven she's adept at signaling success while up to her neck in failure). I just thank God these people aren't in charge of something that can kills us in a more direct fashion, like our health care…er, wait – I don't like the sounds of that!!




Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What, Me Worry?

This week, the Supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said "The Iranian nation, with its unity and God's grace, will punch the arrogance (Western powers) on the 22nd of Bahman (February 11) in a way that will leave them stunned." Should we be worried?

This supposed event is to take place on the 31st anniversary of the Islamic resolution that put Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in control of the nation back in 1979. One of his quotes is as follows: "Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those people are witless. The Sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for the Holy Warriors! Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim."

Despite this quote, despite repeated acts of terror, our current President lectures to us at every chance he gets about how much the world owes Islam. He has called the Islamic morning call to prayer the most beautiful sound on earth. He's gone so far as to tell Israel that they need to stop building new settlements and has tried pushing them toward policies that benefit the terrorist funding Hamas leadership. At the same time he won't put sanctions on Iran where people are being oppressed, beaten and even hung for daring to oppose their dubiously elected president, emboldening the despots in charge. Is all of this cause for worry?

Political correctness practically mandated that Bush qualify Islam as a religion of peace before being allowed to lambaste the fundamentalists who (peacefully?) murdered nearly 3000 American citizens on September 11, 2001. The following Sunday Jeremiah Wright condemned not the terrorists but the country that they attacked. Seven years and half a gross of Sunday sermons later, Obama only made a passing, half hearted attempt to repudiate the comments during the 2008 campaign. Does this indicate he agrees that the people in the World Trade Center deserved their fate? Is this cause for worry?

And now, back to Iran. This country has held Americans hostage, and for the next 30 years they've ended their Friday prayers with "death to America.". They have sponsored terrorist activity in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. Former Iranian leaders have said that in a nuclear exchange, they would gladly lose the lives of 90 million Muslims if it meant that Israel would be wiped from the map in the bargain. They recently announced that they are increasing their enrichment of uranium.

Enrichment of uranium. Hatred for Israel. Public declarations of actions that will leave the West shocked – and a US President who seems completely unconcerned about the threat this rogue nation opposes. Should WE be worried?